Comic film icon Gene Wilder, best known for starring roles in modern classics such as Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, died this week at the age of 83. In the summer of 2005, Wilder, who had just published a memoir, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art, shared his favorite books in the pages of The Week magazine. His picks are reprinted below.
Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent Van Gogh, edited by Irving Stone
The letters of my favorite painter to his younger brother Theo. Van Gogh gives an insight into his creative process, which I found fascinating. I carried this book with me for many years and it always gave me courage when I was depressed.
Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Primarily a psychological tangle, this story is about a doctor who helps a seriously neurotic young woman, and they fall in love and marry. He ends up a wreck and she ends up quite sane and normal. It's very moving.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
This love story set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War is on my list of all-time greats. Hemingway's definition of courage was grace under pressure, and that's what this book exemplifies.
The Notebooks of Captain Georges by Jean Renoir
My favorite book of all, and it's written by a film director. Renoir's novel is a romantic story about a rich Frenchman who, as a young man, fell in love with a prostitute. He kept his love secret, but wrote about it in his private notebooks. When he is old and ill the notebooks are unearthed and published.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
An epic love story about a man who loves the same woman for 50 years. She marries another, but when she's old and a widow they meet again and find they're still in love. A sad, romantic, and beautifully written story.
Timebends by Arthur Miller
The late, great playwright's autobiography answered so many questions I wanted to know, such as the details of his falling out with his close friend, Elia Kazan, and what really happened when he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and refused to name names.